The beauty in death

“Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers.” 
― Wallace Stevens

I passed by this tree a couple of weeks ago, but I never noticed the beautifully intricate marks left on the underbark.  I’m not sure what kind of disease this tree had, but it reminded me of the tulip virus that attacked the bulbs and created such beautiful markings in the tulips.  I found this information on Wikipedia.  But first another picture:

Variegated colours produced by TBV or Tulip Breaking Virus:

Variegated varieties admired during the Dutch tulipomania gained their delicately feathered patterns from an infection with the tulip breaking virus, a mosaic virusthat was carried by the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae. These aphids were common in European gardens of the seventeenth century. While the virus produces fantastically colourful flowers, it also causes weakened plants prone to decline.

Today the virus is almost eradicated from tulip growers’ fields. Tulips that are affected by mosaic virus are called “broken tulips”; while such tulips can occasionally revert to a plain or solid colouring, they will remain infected with the virus. While some modern varieties also display multicoloured patterns, the patterns result from breeding selection for a genetic mutation. In these tulips, natural variation in the upper and lower layers of pigment in the flower are responsible for the patterns.

The Tulip breaking virus, also known as the “Tulip break virus“, “Tulip breaking potyvirus“, “Lily streak virus“, “Tulip mosaic virus“, “Lily mottle virus“, “Lily mosaic virus“, or simply “TBV[1] is a plant virus that is most famous for its infection of tulips (familyLiliaceae). It is widely known as a former source of influence among the price of tulip bulbs and flowers during the period of so-called “Tulip mania” in the 17th century Netherlands.[2][3]. The virus causes a distinctive ‘breaking’ in colour of the flower petals, resulting in pale (white or yellow) and/or dark streaks flaring up the base colour. White and yellow flowered cultivars do not display this streaking[4], although they still can be infected. Other symptoms include leaf mottling (sometimes) and a reduction in vigour. The virus is transmitted by aphids.

In modern times, most tulips sold with “broken” petals are the result of breeding, not the virus.[5]


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